Texas Holdem is by far the most popular poker game played around the world today.
But despite its storied history and preference among the legendary Texas Road Gamblers, like Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim, it’s only in the last decade or so that Texas Hold’em has replaced Draw or Stud poker as the game of choice in most poker rooms.
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Texas Holdem was largely popularized thanks to the proliferation of televised poker and has become the dominant choice for games in poker rooms around the world, both live and online.
It’s popular for good reason. It’s simple to learn but offers fantastic action, lots of opportunities for psychological battles and the pulse-pounding chance to shove all your chips in the middle in at any point.
Why is Texas Hold’em So Popular?
If you play poker online at all you’ll know that the vast majority of all the action – especially at the smallest stakes - is in No-Limit Texas Holdem. You’ll find some Pot-Limit Omaha and 7-Card Stud and a smattering of mixed games, but if you’re looking for a game, you better know the ins and outs of Holdem.
There are plenty of reasons why Texas Holdem has become the poker game of choice. Primarily, though, the sheer volume of television exposure it’s seen over the last decade is reason enough.
People want to copy what they see on TV and, as you’ve likely seen yourself, Holdem makes for some exciting moments on screen.
Another added benefit is that the game itself is quite easy to pick up. The strategy is a bit less complicated than some other poker variations, the math is a bit more accessible and the pace of the game makes it appealing for amateurs that don’t have a lot of patience to let a Stud hand play out.
How to Play Texas Holdem
If you’re new to the game of Texas Holdem, the good news is that it really does only take a minute or two to learn. Each player around the table (usually between 6-10 players) is dealt two cards that are his/her own (called hole cards).
Your final five-card poker hand can use both of these cards, one of these cards or none at all (play the board). Once every player has two cards, a first round of betting follows. The round begins with the player to the immediate left of the dealer and ends with the players in the small and big blinds – forced bets that are required in every hand.
Players can choose to check, call (put in the equivalent of the amount of the big blind), bet (put in a bet at least twice as big as the big blind) or raise (make a bigger bet over the top of another player’s raise).
Any player who’d like to stay in the hand has to at least match the current highest bet to continue. Once all players have had a chance to act, if there are any players still in they go on to the next betting round.
Three community cards are then placed face up on the table. This is called the “flop.” All players can use these three cards together with their two hole cards to create a poker hand.
A second betting round follows the flop – same conditions apply. Each person needs to match the amount of any bet to carry on in the hand. Then a fourth card is placed face up on the board – this is called the turn. Another round of betting follows and then a final community card (the river) is dealt.
A final betting round takes place and if there are still players left in the hand there is a showdown. The player with the best five-card poker hand wins the pot (if two or more players have the same hand, the pot is split).
As you can see it’s a pretty simple game to learn but the subtleties are substantial and the only way to truly master the game of Texas Holdem is by putting in many, many hours of play.
How to Make a Texas Hold'em Hand
Figuring out what your exact final hand is in Texas Holdem may seem quickly at first but it's really quite simple.
After a few dozen hands of practice it'll become second nature. Still, even the best poker pros misread their hands every now and then so don't beat yourself up over it if you get it wrong from time to time.
Each player always has to use exactly five cards to make up his or her final poker hand. Those five can be made up of any combination of cards from your hand and the board cards - meaning you can use one, two or none of your hole cards in your final hand.
If the best five-card poker hand you can make is the five cards on the board, that's your best hand and your hole cards can be excluded.
Even if, say, you have a pair in your hole cards, if there are two pairs higher than that on the board those are the two pairs you'd play along with the highest kicker from either the extra card on the board or from the pair in your hand.